San Giovanni Rotondo is a town in the province of Foggia and is also part of the Gargano National Park. Famous around the world as it houses the remains of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, a Capuchin friar who lived in the town. The city was founded in 1095 on the remains of an ancient village, which dated back to the 6th century BC, and is located on the road to the Monte Sant’Angelo (this village was founded around the cave where the Archangel Michael had appeared).
Padre Pio history
Padre Pio, also known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, was a Catholic priest and mystic who lived in Italy during the 20th century. He was born on May 25, 1887, and lived a life of great devotion to God and service to others. He is widely revered by many Catholics around the world for his profound spiritual gifts, including the ability to read souls, the gift of healing, and the ability to bilocate (appear in two places at once), living on very little sleep, miraculous healing and personal visits from Jesus and Mary
Padre Pio lived a life of great suffering and sacrifice, both physical and spiritual. He experienced the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, for most of his life which caused him great suffering, and endured intense physical pain as a result. Despite this, he remained steadfast in his faith and continued to serve the people of his community with great compassion and love.
Padre Pio was also known for his deep prayer life, spending countless hours in meditation and contemplation of God. He was a powerful spiritual guide for many people and offered wisdom and guidance to those who sought his counsel.
After his death on September 23, 1968, Padre Pio was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. His legacy lives on today, with many people around the world still seeking his intercession and guidance in their spiritual lives.
Padre Pio is a shining example of the power of faith and the transformative impact that one person can have on the world. His life is a testament to the enduring power of love, compassion, and service, and his spiritual gifts continue to inspire and uplift people of all faiths around the world.
Padre Pio and his relation with San Giovanni Rotondo
In 1916, Padre Pio was sent to San Giovanni Rotondo by his superiors to work at the Friary of Our Lady of Grace. He remained there for the rest of his life, serving as a spiritual guide and healer to countless people who came from all over the world to seek his counsel and receive his blessings.
During his time in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio established the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, a hospital dedicated to the care of the sick and suffering. The hospital still exists today and is considered one of the most advanced medical facilities in Italy.
Padre Pio’s presence in San Giovanni Rotondo transformed the small town into a major pilgrimage site, attracting millions of visitors over the years. Today, the town is home to numerous churches, chapels, and other sites associated with Padre Pio, including the friary where he lived, his tomb, and the museum dedicated to his life and legacy.
Padre Pio’s relationship with San Giovanni Rotondo was a profound one. The town was his home for over 50 years and played a central role in his spiritual journey, as well as in his work as a healer and guide to the thousands of people who came to see him. Today, San Giovanni Rotondo remains a testament to Padre Pio’s enduring legacy and the transformative power of faith and service.
The city has a charming historical center with small alleys and few traces of ancient civilizations such as the Swabians, Angevins, Spaniards and Bourbons. But it is well known all around the world mainly for the Shrine of Padre Pio which is the second most visited Catholic Shrine in the world (second only to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in popularity). The Shrine consists of an ancient Church built in 1540 and a new one, Santa Maria delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace). This was specifically requested by Padre Pio and was built during his lifetime to accommodate the many pilgrims and worshipers attracted to San Giovanni Rotondo. Today it remains the central focus of the sanctuary.
It is centered on his tomb, opened daily and free to visit it hosts his confessional, his cell which still contains his books, clothing and all his belongings and the crucifix from which he received the stigmata.
The Shrine also includes a modern Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) on the forested hillside above Santa Maria delle Grazie. The construction of the Via Crucis monumentale began in 1968 and was completed in 1981. It represents the drama of Jesus, it is made of granite and includes 17 bronze and marble sculptures.
Padre Pio also founded the Home for the Relief of Suffering (Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza), a hospital in the forefront of scientific research and considered one of the most efficient hospitals in Europe.
Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church
Padre Pio’s dream was to build a church, a huge church that had to be the house for all pilgrims. His last words were: Make it Big. Due to the huge number of pilgrims that every day arrive in San Giovanni Rotondo (over 7 million pilgrims each year visit the Shrine), in 2004 the new modern Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church was completed, it is the second largest Church in the world after the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It lays on the mountain beside the ancient Shrine, it can accommodate seven thousand people seated inside and over thirty thousands standing in the outside square.
Designed and built by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano it is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. It is a modern and impressive structure, featuring a large central dome, a bell tower, and a series of smaller chapels that surround the main worship area. The interior of the church is decorated with colorful mosaics and frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Saint Pio and other important figures in Catholicism.
The church is an important pilgrimage site for Catholics from around the world, who come to pray and pay their respects to Saint Pio. The church also houses the tomb of Saint Pio, which is located in a crypt beneath the main altar. The church is open to visitors year-round, and guided tours are available for those who wish to learn more about its history and significance.
Here are some ways to get there:
By plane: The closest airport to San Giovanni Rotondo is the Foggia Gino Lisa Airport, which is about 40 kilometers away. However only few flights are currently available to this airport. From there, you can take a taxi or a bus to San Giovanni Rotondo.
By train: The closest train station to San Giovanni Rotondo is in Foggia, which is about 25 kilometers away. From there, you can take a bus or a taxi to San Giovanni Rotondo.
By car: San Giovanni Rotondo is easily accessible by car. It is located near the A14 highway, which connects Bologna to Taranto. If you are driving from Rome, take the A1 highway towards Naples, then follow the A16 towards Bari, and finally take the exit for San Giovanni Rotondo.
No, reservations are not required to visit the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church. The church is open to the public and visitors are welcome to attend mass and other religious services. However, during peak pilgrimage season, which is typically from May to October, the church can become very crowded, so it is recommended to arrive early if you want to attend a mass or service.